Research Interest: The C&H Library

Calumet & Hecla Public Library

Calumet & Hecla Public Library Exterior (Photo Courtesy of the Keweenaw Digital Archive, Michigan Tech)

One thing I have long found very interesting is the idea of the company town.  Corporate paternalism seemed to be a solid fact of life in the Copper Country with towns under some type of control from big mining company operations.  Companies such as the Calumet and Hecla (C&H) Mining Company have often been charged as being very paternalistic operations.  In the early 1900’s the employee roster is documented to have been above 5,000 employees, including superintendants (known as captains) and miners.  The swelling ranks of employees led the mining administration to further develop community buildings and local businesses that ensured employees spent time in company spaces, shopped in company stores, and lived in company housing.

The company-provided building I find most interesting is the C&H Public Library which, I believe, was built some time in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.  In its heyday this space, now the Keweenaw History Center in Calumet, served the families of mining company employees.  It provided reading rooms for adults and children, a smoke room, and public baths on the lower levels.  Eventually the lower level was reconverted into additional stack space.  In 1944 the library collection was transferred to Calumet High School Library and the library became office space.  When I go home to the Copper Country over Christmas break I hope to do some archival research on the C&H Public Library with my intention to get enough information to compile a research paper or a scholarly article on the history of the library and the role it played in the community.  The Keweenaw History Center collections, part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park, and the Michigan Technological University Archives both have relevant collections to this project.  The MTU digital archive also has some great images of the library so you should check those out if you get a chance.  I’ll post more about the library at a later date so stay tuned.

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